Years ago, back when the Goddess of All Things Good was still doing her daily talk show, Oprah Winfrey discussed the way in which women were socialized to be polite to the detriment of their own safety.
Victims of horrific violence often said that although they knew in their gut that a person approaching them was dangerous, they didn’t act on this feeling because they didn’t want to seem rude. If the person making their intestines tingle was from a minority, the women didn’t sound the alarm because they didn’t want to seem rude and racist. Their stories were an extreme extension of something I’m sure many women can relate to: Women daily ignore slights, offensive jokes and the generally insulting, invasive behaviour of others because women are still expected to be polite and friendly, lest they be called bitches or somehow be classed unfeminine and therefore despised.
Women ignoring their instincts about impending danger rings true—I’ve seen female friends grit their teeth and smile through odious exchanges, lest they cause a stir, lest things escalate further still. The assertion by Eagles of Death Metal lead singer Jesse Hughes that political correctness is “killing our natural instincts and making us vulnerable” to Islamic terrorist, however, rings very, very false.
Anyone who has listened to Trump’s speeches over the past few months will know that it’s probably the average Muslim who is more vulnerable these days. We do not tiptoe around Muslims with fake smiles plastered on our faces—we watch them with suspicion-filled eyes. Many of our leaders tell us its ok (and indeed patriotic) to do so. Have you ever been on a plane at the same time as a Muslim in traditional dress? Every time they get up to go to the bathroom, the whole cabin holds its breath. That cannot be a fun way to live.
While Trump breathes fire, and the average, run-of-the-mill Muslim bears the brunt of the public implicitly associating them with terrorist activities, terrorism isn’t even the number one threat to American lives. Not by a long shot. Between 2004 and 2013, there were over 300,000 firearm deaths in the US, compared to 313 terrorism-related deaths. In 2015, more people were killed by toddlers than by terrorists. This is not even to consider heart attacks, car accidents, diabetes and a whole host of other threats to life and health that are much, much more prevalent than terrorism, but much, much less dramatic. Blanket statements against terror are vote-winners, while common sense monologues on the evils of junk food are not. Political correctness is not protecting the Muslim community, so how could it possibly be making us vulnerable?
We like “us versus them” politics. It makes us feel safer to know who is to blame in a world where attending a concert in an iconic Paris club can end in flames. We want to know who to be suspicious of, who to label dangerous, who to keep outside our borders. With their beards and headscarves, traditionally-attired Muslims are easy to identify, and identifying “danger” is the first step to warding against it.
But on the whole, Muslims and other minorities do not pose a threat to our society. They are a part of it, and contribute to it. These statements are not political correctness; they are facts.
If your instincts tell you something is wrong, that someone is behaving strangely, you should act on it. But this relates to individuals, not to an entire category of people. Racial profiling doesn’t work, and it’s wrong. That would be like Oprah warning all women to be suspicious of all men, all the time, because they are all secretly rapists. That just by identifying as men they are supporting rape, and all men should be expected to defend their gender every time a woman anywhere is sexually assaulted. That is, of course, ridiculous.
Which isn’t to say that PC language is universally positive. The argument can absolutely be made that it’s dulling intellectual debate in universities, for example. Universities are meant to stretch and challenge preconceptions, not protect students from ideas, however odious. But that is an essay for another time. Trump speeches and public perception aside, it is seriously doubtful that the head honchos on the NSA, FBI, CIA etc are wringing their hands trying to determine if it is politically correct to pursue a threat against the integrity of the homeland, no matter where is appears to come from. For Hughes to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.
(For another perspective on Jesse Hughes’ statements, read here.)